Thursday, November 19, 2009

Indian Graphics

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Not so PC - Fur Billheads

Of all industries, that of manufacturing the pelts of animals into articles for the use of mankind is the most ancient, and hardly a country exists in which, to some extent, the skins of different beasts are not so used at the present time. The manufacturing of skins into articles of apparel and luxury is an industry apart from all others, and one requiring great knowledge and experience, as the stability as well as the appearance of most furs depends much upon the mode of curing, drying, and making up.

The Canadian provinces owe their first start on the road to prosperity to the fur trade. The French pioneers discovered that as the Native Indians were ignorant of the value of the furs which they accumulated, an enormous profit was possible to the successful trader in those articles. In the infancy of the industry there was absolutely no limit to the percentage of profit, as the Native Indians would exchange the most valuable of pelts for European trinkets that were worth nothing except the cost of transportation. The trade in furs with the natives soon created a class known as coureur des bois or rangers of the wood, whose untamable licentiousness brought scandal upon the traffic, and led to the licensing system, which itself soon became subject to abuse. During twelve or more months these men would be absent from the trading-posts, when they would return with canoes laden with packs of beaver and other skins, with the proceeds of the sale of which they would indulge in the most extravagant dissipation. Their funds would thus soon become exhausted, and they would again disappear on a voyage for subsistence.

The British merchants of New York soon began to encroach upon the business of the Canadian traders, which led to bitter feuds regarding the infringement of territorial rights. Prior to 1795 the trade was almost wholly monopolized by great trading companies, the Dutch East India Company having been first in the field, with trading-posts at New Amsterdam (New York), Beaverwyck (Albany), and several points on the Delaware and the coasts of Maine. The Hudson's Bay Company for almost two hundred years monopolized the trade in furs, although after 1790 it had a somewhat powerful rival in the Northwest Company. In 1805 the latter company established trading-posts on the Pacific coast. In 1808 John Jacob Astor established the American Fur Company, with its line of posts across the continent, intending to form a depot for furs at the mouth of the Columbia River, and to ship the furs directly to China and India from that point. He subsequently changed its name to the Pacific Fur Company, and was on the highroad to success, when, in 1813, his resident partner treacherously sold out the whole establishment to the Northwest Company, on the plea that the British forces, with whom we were then at war, would have captured it. The Russian-American Fur Company, having its trading-post at Sitka, in Alaska, and subordinate posts on the Yukon, carried on an immense traffic for many years, but in 1867 transferred its property and rights to the United States, simultaneously with our purchase of Alaska. Mr. Astor, after the treacherous transfer of the Pacific Fur Company to the Northwest Company, confined his operations to the region east of the Rocky Mountains, and with his partner and successor, Mr. Ramsay Crooks, transacted for many years a profitable business in furs.

The preparation of most skins for packing and transportation is by no means so difficult as might appear. After being stripped from the animal they are carefully cleaned of fat and flesh, and dried in a cool, dry place. When thoroughly dry they are ready for shipment.

The fur trade has been split up into departments, and very few firms carry on all the branches of the business, as was formerly done, under one roof. The taxidermist may be said to conduct a collateral branch of the fur industry. The manufacturing furriers and fur dealers represent an enormous investment of capital, and most of them are importers and exporters as well. There are a large number of important manufacturing firms in America. The manufacture of hats and caps can only be referred to as a branch industry allied to the fur trade, inasmuch as the felt is made from fur. Of course there are hats and caps made directly of fur, which come within the province of the furrier.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Oswego New York Mills

Oswego is located on Lake Ontario and at the mouth of the Oswego River in north-central New York. In 1826 the first mill was built in Oswego for the manufacturer of flour. The mill was built by Alvin Bronson and TS Morgan on the east side of the river. An adjoining mill was thereafter built by Henry Fitzhugh. From that first mill onward, the flour milling business blossomed in Oswego chiefly due to it the hydraulic power of Oswego Fall and the Oswego River. On July 5, 1853, fire destroyed most of the mills and elevators on the east side of the river. All of the lost mills were rebuilt. Eventually the Oswego mills lost ground to the Western mills, but the paper mills moved took their place. A list of the mills in 1853 included:

Empire - run by Doolittle, Irwin & Wright

Ontario – run by GLAB Grant

Atlas – run by Geo. Seeley

Magnolia - run by Chas. Smyth

Lake Ontario – run by Fitzhugh & Littlejohn

Washington – run by Penfield, Lyon & Co.

I was only able to find two examples of billheads for Oswego, NY mills. Just thought I would show how specialized billhead collecting can get - narrowed down by state, city, and business type.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Flour Billheads

The flouring industry is the first manufacture recorded in American annals. The first wheat was brought to this country by Bartholomew Gosnold, and landed at an island in Buzzard's Bay in 1602. The first flour-mill mentioned in American history was the hand-mill, which consisted of two small millstones, one having a handle, rubbed upon the other. Perhaps the most celebrated flouring-mills in the period immediately after the Revolution were those of Delaware, on the Brandywine. Up to 1785 the different milling processes were separate and largely done by hand; but Evans, by the introduction of the elevator, conveyer, and other mechanisms, combined the different steps into a continuous system, dispensing with one half of the labor formerly required, and enabling the miller by machinery alone to take the grain through " from wagon to wagon again."

As the country grew westward, so went the wheat and flour industries. Soon, one state stood out in the production of flour and that was Minnesota. Minnesota became known as the "Flour Milling Capital of the World." It was said that nature laid the foundation for the milling industry in Minnesota when she filled the soil with a remarkable quality and quantity of food nutrition, and laid out strong a reliable streams for cheap and efficient power. After that it was simply matter of human energy and method.

The first flour mill built in Minnesota was run by the government. The mill was built by soldiers from Fort Snelling in 1823 at St Anthony’s Falls. This was the beginning of the Minnesota wheat and flour industries. The earliest flour mill built with government help in Minnesota was built by Lemuel Bolles in Afton in 1845-1846. Merchant milling in Minnesota made its first substantial beginning in 1854 when Eastman, Rollins & Upton erected a mill on Hennepin Island. The mill was dubbed "The Minnesota" and was the first to ship flour to the eastern markets. As the railroads began linking Minneapolis to the west in the late 1860s the number of Minneapolis flour mills grew rapidly.

Long before Pillsbury added fame to Minnesota, Archibald’s mill in Dundas was the mill millers made trips to see if they could discern Archibald’s secret of Archibald’s flour beating flour. Archibald’s secret lied in the process not the quality of the flour which allowed him to produce whiter and purer flour.

When flour was made from the hard spring wheat of the Northern Plains using conventional milling techniques, it was discolored and speckled with particles of husk or bran, and it did not keep well. In addition, conventional mill stones destroyed much of the most nutritious part of the wheat kernel. In 1870, Edmund La Croix of Faribault went to Minneapolis and introduced the middlings purifier into the Washburn B mill which increased the value of Minnesota flour from $1 to $2 per barrel. The middlings purifier resulted in a revolution in the manufacturer of flour. Instead of grinding as much flour as possible on the first grinding, the aim came to grind as little as possible on the first grinding.

Tremendous consolidation took place within the flour industry between 1880 and 1900, as numerous mergers occurred. In 1876, 17 firms operated 20 mills; in 1890, four large corporations produced almost all of the flour made in Minnesota. By the early 1900s, three corporations based in Minneapolis controlled 97 percent of the nation's flour production. They were Washburn-Crosby Company, which became General Mills; Pillsbury-Washburn Flour Mills Company, which became Pillsbury Flour Mills Company; and Northwestern Consolidated Milling Company, which became the Standard Milling Company. This Minneapolis "Flour Trust" dominated the national flour market until the 1930s.

As consolidation took place, the number of operating mills stabilized at about two dozen, but auxiliary buildings multiplied rapidly. Warehouses, grain elevators, boiler rooms, engine houses, packing facilities, and railroad tracks crowded the land along the river. Over the years, the labor of many men constructed canals, mills, and support buildings. Others unloaded newly arrived grain onto conveyor belts that carried it to the millers, who put it through the rollers and processed it into the final product. Still other workers packed the flour, first into barrels and later into bags. Under brand names like Gold Medal and Pillsbury's Best, the newly packaged flour found its way to markets all over the world.